Tax competition and inequality Program title: The political foundations of tax competition

Philipp Genschel, Hanna Lierse, Henning Schmidtke^, Laura Seelkopf°, Stefan Traub°, Hongyan Yang°
The baseline model of international tax competition predicts that domestic income inequality will increase: in the worst case progressive taxation on capital is no longer possible and spending levels deteriorate. Given that the median voter is receiving her income mostly from labor, many observers are puzzled that corporate tax competition persists among developed democracies. Even during the economic crisis, hard-hit countries such as Ireland insisted to keep their low corporate tax rate
more » ... e pressure from other European countries and with a broad backing of the whole political spectrum. Why do left-wing parties not intervene and call for international tax harmonization if tax competition is detrimental for the poor? It is the aim of this paper to explain the driving forces of tax competition and their consequences on inequality. Specifically, we shed light on why the poor and their representatives in smaller economies have not done much against tax competition. To do so we first build a theoretical model based on asymmetric tax competition in two countries, which we then test empirically. In our model the median voter in both countries is poor; thus the left determines the domestic capital tax rate. Nevertheless, in equilibrium tax competition persists. We show that the rich and the poor of the small country can achieve a higher net income when engaging in international tax competition. This explains why tax competition is politically robust even in a model where the rich have no power over the tax rate. We test the empirical implications of our model against a sample of eight OECD countries and their tax policies over a long time frame from 1960 until today. In conclusion, we discuss the crucial implication from accepting a lower capital tax rate, namely increased domestic and international income inequality.